• Saturday, June 15, 2024

FOOTBALL

Sunil Chhetri inches closer to Lionel Messi as India drub Pakistan 4-0

Eight-time champions India dominated their arch-rivals in the game and will play Nepal in their second match on Saturday.

India captain Sunil Chhetri (Photo by PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

EIGHT-TIME champions India kicked off their campaign in the 2023 SAFF Championship in style as they routed arch-rivals Pakistan 4-0 in a group game at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday (21).

India skipper Sunil Chhetri scored a hat-trick while the fourth goal was scored by Udanta Singh Kumam. The hosts went up 2-0 inside 16 minutes with Chhetri scoring twice while the remaining two goals came towards the end in the rain-drenched evening.

However, India had a low point when their head coach Igor Stimac from Croatia was shown red card before half time for deliberately interrupting with actions of a Pakistani player. Some players from either side were also shown yellow cards in a game for intervening in the episode.

The Group A game was the first football clash between India, ranked 101 in the world, and Pakistan, ranked 195, since 2018. It was also for the first time since 2014 that Pakistan were playing a football match on the Indian soil.

Overall, the two sides have met 27 times with Indian winning 14 times and Pakistan only three. Ten games ended without a result.

Wednesday’s victory meant India have now extended their win to 17 consecutive matches. Their last defeat had come against Qatar in the World Cup Qualifiers in June 2021.

India, who won the Intercontinental Cup recently, will next play Nepal on Saturday (24) followed by Kuwait on June 27. Kuwait beat Nepal 3-1 in the opening match of the tournament earlier on Wednesday.

Chhetri’s hat-trick took his tally of international goals to 90 and he now stands at the fourth position after Cristiano Ronaldo (123), Ali Daei (109) and Lionel Messi (103).

The other group in the tournament features Lebanon, Maldives, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Top two teams from the two groups will advance to the semi-finals. The final will be played on July 4.

All matches of the tournament will be played in Bengaluru.

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